Diary of an Expat, Part 41
White Trash fast food, heat
So here is an interesting thing about Berlin:

Whether Berlin is chilly or unspeakably hot appears to be entirely a function of the cloud cover. Berlin spent last week being in the mid-teens, and drizzly. This week, it stopped about halfway through, and the temperature jumped ten or fifteen degrees.

Yesterday, it was hot and unpleasant through the day; then, in the evening, it cooled off to be nice-ish, and then it began to whip up a thunderstorm that roared into the city with a vengeance, and into me in particular biking into a strong headwind and the accompanying marble-sized drops of rain. Lest you think I found this unpleasant, far from it — it's the first time I've seen Berlin be serious about rain since late last summer, and it made me happy.

But then it went away, and the to-hell-with-you-heat returned. As I write this, at nearly midnight on a lovely Saturday, it is still uncomfortable. You would want to wear a t-shirt, or less. You might even want to wear less than skin, if that was somehow possible.

This, of course, brings people out. On a hot, sticky night in Berlin, the city spills onto the sidewalks, and from the sidewalks to the streets. It becomes a time of milling about — but not too much, lest anyone overheat and lose track of their beer.

As I grew up in the desert, I also grew up with either air conditioning or evaporative cooling, neither of which are particularly profound institutions in Berlin and the latter of which wouldn't even really work, given the relatively high humidity. I think people just learn to deal with it. Perhaps this is why Berliners are such inveterate fans of ice cream — they don't want their favorite places to go under, so they support them through the otherwise lackluster winter months, but they really come into their own during those brief weeks where Berlin becomes a greenhouse.

This is, naturally, also when Berliners go to the beach, and because there are none close by they have seen fit to invent some. I've mentioned this before.

There's a curious cultural give and take where elements of American culture like "listening to 70s music whilst sipping Coronas on beach chairs comes in." In general Germans — Berliners anyway — seem to dislike America as a country whilst at the same time liking Americans, and American culture, a great deal.

I don't really care to spend so much time debating the particularities of why this might be the case, although, culturally, Americans and Germans are not terribly different. Their food is also pretty similar — American fast food, for example, is more or less traditional German food with slightly more grease thrown in, and I think that's only because Americans thought of it before the Germans did.

I muse on this, and food specifically, because I finally got around to eating at White Trash Fast Food, which is with Mauerpark's Bird one of the two "American food" institutions in the city. At WTFF, the host, servers, and other employees speak English, and the menu is blatantly Americanized. So is the music, if Americans stopped making music in 1975 (hey, you could do worse).

WTFF is alright, incidentally; the ribs are pretty good, and the burger I had was decent. They claim to have the best guacamole in Berlin, which may be "sadly true," in the sense that it is both true and reflects poorly on the guacamolization of the city.

It was depressingly expensive for what it had on offer; there's a lot of meat on the ribs, but $25 is still pretty dear for comfort food. On the other hand it's an opportunity to eat (what Germans imagine to be) American food and American whiskey, so if you're homesick I guess you could check it out.

I'm remarkably unhomesick, all things considered. I no longer think of Berlin as being especially foreign, which I think is coinciding with an increasing ability to understand what people around me are saying. Passing conversations on the street still escape me, but people chatting at nearby tables I can generally get the gist, and even the street is no longer a complete mystery.

I am, however, returning to the United States in a few weeks, so we'll see how that goes. I have some things I need to take care of with the American government, and some personal affairs to tidy up, but I'm rolling it into a vacation, which I haven't had since I took two days off in March, and I haven't really had since December.

So I'm looking forward to that. One week down, five to go, theoretically speaking.
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